The Beginning of a New Year

nyrefThe beginning of the New Year is seen as a transition for many of us. It’s a time to step back from our life to reconsider where we’ve been and where we want to go. There may be a poignant awareness of the losses and struggles that occurred, as well as an appreciation of our good fortune in celebrating the start of yet another year.

We hope that the changing of the year’s digit will rescue us from past habits and holes that we have dug for ourselves. We dream of changes that will make us happier and healthier. We make a list of resolutions in the hope that our willpower will be strong enough to launch us into a new way of living.

But in moving from one year to the next, take moment to pause. Pause to celebrate. Pause to reflect. Pause to take inventory. And pause to see what you can learn from this past year. Self-reflection is a powerful process. It’s strongly encouraged by many of the world’s great religious traditions and by some of the wisest of our ancestors and has many benefits.

For most of us, self-reflection is a missing piece of our lives. We’re very busy. We’re tired. We look for rest through books, beds, television and the Internet. The idea of spending several hours or more in your living room, sitting quietly and reflecting on the past year, seems strange and a bit uncomfortable. But in the waning hours of the year, we have a wonderful opportunity to excavate our lives and reconsider what we wish to do with the time we have left.

As you reflect on your life, you’ll notice that certain ideas for making changes or doing things differently will naturally arise. You can make note of these, keep them in mind as they can become useful as resolutions or goals.

But for; now, just allow yourself to sit with your life as it is. Seeing our life “as it is” can be more than the foundation of personal change – it can be the basis for faith, compassion for others, and a profound sense that we are loved and cared for more deeply than we have ever realized.

Best wishes as you enter the new year & may God grant you serenity, peace and strength.

Adapted
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Saint Francis And The First Christmas Crèche

crecheAs a young man, Francis of Assisi loved material things, especially beautiful clothes from the shop of his wealthy merchant father. One biographer describes the handsome, young, fun-loving Francis as “the very king of frolic.” That changed at the age of about 20, after he went to fight in a skirmish with a rival city. He was taken prisoner, held for over a year, and came home very weak from a serious illness.
At some point during his ordeal, Francis realized that there must be more to life than shallow pleasures, and he came to the conclusion that real satisfaction was to be found in loving God and doing what God wanted him to do—love others. He was disowned by his father for giving away family wealth, surrendered whatever other worldly goods and privileges he had, and wandered the countryside, improvising hymns of praise as he went. Others, drawn by his sincerity, zeal, and joy, joined Francis in his vow of poverty—the beginnings of the Franciscan Order.
Francis loved people, from the rich and powerful in their palaces to the beggars in the streets. He also loved animals and is said to have been able to communicate with them. He also is said to have tamed a fierce wolf that terrified the villagers of Gubbio, Italy, and he petitioned the emperor to pass a law that all birds and beasts, as well as the poor, be given extra food at Christmas, “so that all might have occasion to rejoice in the Lord.”
Francis was always looking for new ways to make God’s truths easily understandable to others. At Christmastime 1223, while visiting the town of Grecio, Italy, he had the idea of showing people what Jesus’ birthplace must have been like. He found a mountain cave near the village and fashioned it into a rough stable. St. Bonaventure (d. 1274), in his Life of St. Francis of Assisi, gave this account of what followed:
“Then he prepared a manger and brought hay and an ox and an ass to the place appointed. The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise. The man of God [St. Francis] stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy. Then he preached to the people around the Nativity of the poor King; and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of His love, he called Him the Babe of Bethlehem.”
Saint Francis is also considered the “father of the Christmas carol” for having been the first to include carols in Christmas worship services. As a boy, Francis had perhaps learned more in the school of the troubadours—itinerant composers and performers of songs—than from the priests of St. George’s at Assisi, where his father had sent him for an education. It’s not surprising, then, that joyous music became one of Francis’s favorite forms of worship. That joy was contagious, and still is.

by Curtis Van Gorder

What is Forgiveness?

forgive-on-stonesPsychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.

Many of us feel that when we forgive somebody, we’re doing them a favor. Perhaps they’ve changed, or apologized, or maybe we feel that we made them suffer enough. The reality is, that the main beneficiary of forgiveness is the forgiver.

Every time we harbor ill will, a hateful feeling, or persistent negativity towards someone we do harm to ourselves. When we remember the wrongs done to us, we dwell on the ill feelings about those who hurt us. We relive those negative emotions, suffering past pain all over again, this process can affect us not only emotionally but eventually even physically, manifesting itself through our bodies and our health.

To forgive is not always easy, at times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness. However, it is the most important single process that brings peace to our soul, harmony to our life and allows us freedom from the weight of our suffering which in turn brings peace of mind.

So how to forgive a wrong? It isn’t easy, it goes against our human nature. Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change. Here are some ideas:

  • Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance in your life at a given time
  • Reflect on the facts of the situation, how you’ve reacted, and how this combination has affected your life, health and well-being
  • Actively choose to forgive the person who’s offended you, when you’re ready
  • Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life
  • As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt, you might even find compassion and understanding.

Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace, forgiveness can lead to:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Higher self-esteem

There is no guarantee that the offending party will reciprocate, however for you this is the beginning of a positive change in your life.

Forgiveness improves our health, the benefits of forgiveness seem to come largely from its ability to reduce negative affect such as feelings of tension, anger, depression and fatigue.

Forgiveness makes us happier, forgiving others can make people feel happy, especially when they forgive someone to whom they feel close.

Forgiveness boosts kindness and connectedness, those who feel forgiving don’t only feel more positive toward someone who hurt them, they are also more likely to volunteer for a good cause and they feel more connected to other people in general.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said: ” Forgiveness is the path to true enduring peace.”

The Flight of the Geese

geeseEvery fall thousands of geese fly from Canada southward even as far as Venezuela to escape the bitterly cold Canadian winter. As soon as a flock of geese take flight from Canadian waters they quickly form a V-shape flying pattern, with one rotating goose in the center lead and all the other geese trailing behind in two close lines.

Wildlife scientists have made some fascinating discoveries:

  • When geese fly together, each goose provides additional lift and reduces air resistance for the goose flying behind it. Consequently, by flying together in a v-formation, the whole flock can fly about 71% farther with the same amount of energy than if each goose flew alone. Geese have discovered that they can reach their destination more quickly and with less energy expended when they fly together in formation.
  • When a goose drops out of the v-formation it quickly discovers that it requires a great deal more effort and energy to fly. Consequently, that goose will quickly return to the formation to take advantage of the lifting power that comes from flying together.
  • The lead goose flying in front of the formation has to expend the most energy because it is the first to break the flow of air that provides the additional lift for all of the geese who follow behind the leader. Consequently, when the lead goose gets tired, it drops out of the front position and moves to the rear of the formation, where the resistance is lightest, and another goose moves to the leadership position. This rotation of position happens many times in the course of the long journey to warmer climates.
  • They also frequently make loud honking sounds as they fly together, the whole team communicating amongst themselves and also encouraging the lead goose during their long flight.
  • When one goose becomes ill, is shot or injured, and drops out of the formation, two other geese will fall out of formation and remain with the weakened goose. They will stay with and protect the injured goose from predators until it is able to fly again or dies. Afterward they will catch up to their formation or join another flock going south.

What an excellent example of solidarity and working in harmony to attain common values and goals. We as humans have much to learn from these graceful and intelligent birds.

The Bell Rope

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.”

corrietenboom

During World War II, Corrie ten Boom and her family helped Jews in Holland escape the Nazis. She and her family were taken to the Ravensbrück concentration camp when it was discovered that they were hiding Jews. Her sister and father died in the camp, but Corrie survived and was miraculously released which enabled her to tell her story.

One day, many years later she wrote the following:

“Forgiveness is like letting go of a bell rope. If you have ever seen a country church with a bell in the steeple, you will remember that to get the bell ringing you have to pull the rope for awhile, after the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. Once it has begun to ring, you merely maintain the momentum. As long as you keep pulling, the bell keeps ringing. Once you let go of the rope, the bell will continue ringing, momentum is still at work. However, the bell will begin to slow and eventually stop”.

“I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When you forgive someone, you take let go of the rope. But if you’ve been tugging at your grievances for a long time, you mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for awhile. After all, they have lots of momentum. But if you affirm your decision to forgive, that unforgiving spirit will begin to slow and will eventually be still. Forgiveness is letting go of the “rope” of retribution.”

Corrie Ten Boom (1892 – 1983)

How to Transform Failure into Success

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

success-failure-signEliminate the fear of failure

There is nothing more human than making mistakes. Despite that, in our eagerness for success we do our best to hide our failures and short comings from others. A movement to bring this behaviour to an end is growing. It’s called Fail Forward and calls for individuals to stand by their failings. The theory is that nothing contributes more to learning potential than your own failures. The question remains, is failure really the best way to move forward in your life? How can you best learn from your failures and orientate yourself towards success in the future.

Failures are the true winners

Ashley Good is convinced that learning from failure is the doorway to unlimited potential. She is the founder of Fail Forward and has received the Innovative Innovation Award for her ideas. Ashley is looking to show us the way to learning from failure and is calling upon everyone to stand by their mistakes. She believes that doing so is the key to reaching their true potential.
This approach has received praise from high places. The New York Times, the Guardian and even Bill Gates have spoken out in support of learning from mistakes. Not only that, there are major conferences in Silicon Valley dedicated to failure, where the best of the best in the business world speak about their failures over the years and how they contributed to their eventual success. Has failure actually become sexy? Could it be that failures are really the true winners?

From loser to winner?

The question if someone will become a winner or a loser is not an easy one to answer. Some of the biggest heroes in history were classified as losers during their lives. An example of this is Vincent van Gogh. While the 19th century artist’s paintings are now worth a fortune, during his lifetime, he was only able to sell one single painting. It was only after his death that he became one of the most famous artists of all time.
Furthermore, inventor Thomas Edison suffered through many failures before he finally made his breakthrough and invented the light bulb. Not only that, every sportsperson once began at the bottom and made numerous mistakes on their path to where they now are. Does this mean we should classify these big talents as losers? Today we would call them winners, however at an earlier stage of their lives, there were times when they were the loser. The key to their success was not giving up after each of their failures.

Failure – ruin or redemption?

Although many examples exist of people overcoming huge failures and reaching great success, in every day life, the Fail Forward concept can prove more challenging. The German economist Holger Patzelt researched this topic in a study. He looked at the failures of entrepreneurs and came to the conclusion that being able to learn from failure has a lot to do with the ability to process negative emotions. People who face a massive failure, fall quickly into a period of mourning. It is only those who are able to bring themselves back out of that, who have the chance to learn from their mistakes and begin anew.

Cultivate self-awareness

Those who are looking to learn from their mistakes must be willing to take a long, hard look at themselves. It is necessary to put your mistakes under a microscope in order to understand them and learn how to prevent them from happening again in the future. This is the way to forging a new future. Sometimes a successful life is faced with a small detour, and who knows what might have become of many of the world’s greatest, if they had not been faced with failure along the way.

Adapted from an article in Experteer Magazine

You Never Lose Your Value

billet-froisseA well known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a €100 bill. In the room of 200, he asked “What is this piece of paper and is it worth anything?” “It is a €100 bill, which can be cashed in international & national markets for it’s quoted value,” replied one of the many participants who raised their hands.

The speaker proceeded to crumple up the €100 bill using both his hands until it became a bundle of wrinkled paper. He then unfolded it again and making an unsuccessful attempt to keep it straight he asked, “Would you still be able to negotiate it for it’s quoted value?”

” Yes!” was the echoing reply from the participants.

“Well,” he said, “Looks like I haven’t done enough! What if I do this?” And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, which was now all crumpled, dirty, defaced and not easy to recognize from a distance. “Now will someone like to trade it for its quoted value?” Many hands went in the air.

“I think that piece of currency is still holding its quoted value” replied a participant in an unsure voice. “This bill can still fetch goods worth 100 Euros” said the other participants. Everyone agreed.

“My friends, there is a very valuable lesson in this exercise that we are just through with. It may have appeared to some of you, that I was able to deface, mutilate & alter the €100 bill during the process as the effects were quite visible”.

“However, no matter what I did to this piece of paper, you still upheld its negotiability because you were sure in your mind that my actions did not actually decrease its value. It was still a currency note worth €100”.

“Many times in our lives, we feel as though we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and/or the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. It may also appear to onlookers as if it has really happened to a certain extent. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, please remember you never lose your “Value”.